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BAE Systems Black Knight   (Source: Defense Update)
BAE Systems' Black Knight is a formidable weapon for the battlefield

In early October, DailyTech brought you the story of Foster-Miller's MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System). The MAARS followed in the footsteps of previous battlefield robots like the REDOWL PakBot and the SUGV Early.

The 300-pound MAARS, on the other hand, brought serious firepower and technology to the table. The MAARS features a M240B Medium Machine Gun and uses GPS tracking to reduce the risk of friendly fire.

While the MAARS is an impressive piece of machinery, BAE Systems is taking battlefield robots to the next level with its Black Knight. The Black Knight is a semi-autonomous 9.5 ton tank based on the Bradley fighting vehicle.

The Black Knight can be controlled from the traditional commander's station or by remote control via the Dismounted Control Device (DCD). Due to its advanced programming, the Black Knight can also autonomously plan routes and avoid obstacles without user intervention.

When it comes to the Black Knights armament, human intervention is required to fire rounds (thankfully). Considering that the Black Knight is armed with a 30mm gun and a coaxial machine gun, it's good to know that this tank won't be rolling around firing at anything that moves.

BAE Systems detailed how admirably the Black Knight performed during a demonstration in early 2007.

"While the Bradley Technology Demonstrator was engaging an enemy target from cover in a support by fire position, the Black Knight was able to autonomously move to a covered position and observe the target, using its sensor package to provide battle damage assessment data back to the Bradley," explained BAE Systems.

"If the enemy target needed to be re-engaged, the Black Knight could effectively neutralize the target, but the command to fire would always be made by a remote Soldier and only after the data necessary to make positive identification is received."

It may be years before such potent machinery is available for use on actual battlefields, however.

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RE: Playing with fire
By masher2 on 11/9/2007 10:15:58 AM , Rating: 2
> "I will have to disagree with you on this one, that robots will make war be felt even harder on the economy."

That's not quite what I'm saying. My point was that these advances will shift the burden from being primarily a human-loss issue to one that's almost entirely economic.

> "For one, Robots would cost less to mantain than humans"

True. But let's examine that issue closer. Let's say you have $300M/year to spend on a unit of ground trips. You decide to replace it with a robotic version that is equally effective, but costs only $100M. You save $200M.

But assuming you're not fighting an assymetric war, your enemy has roughly the same technology you do. So he does the same, replacing his troops with robots. And (since he wants an advantage over you...after all, the point of war is to win) he spends the money HE saves on MORE robots.

Where does that leave you? You're forced to spend your $200M savings on more robots also, leaving you with an equal economic burden to your old human troops-- and stil evenly matched with your opponent, even though technically your forces are now 3X as "powerful". So the only thing that's changed is that now a war will hit you ONLY in your pocketbook, instead of both there and in human costs.

But wait! The issue is still more complex. When you spend $4M training a human pilot, you know that investment is eventually going to vanish. Even if that human isn't killed in combat, he'll eventually retire, quit, etc. Humans are very, very expensive to maintain. But robots are not-- invest in a robot force and, barring minor maintenance costs, that investment *lasts*.

So over time, what happens? Your $300M/year military budget gives you a military force that GROWS each year. You continually get more and more powerful. So do your enemies, so this does't affect military balance, but it does affect economic cost. It means a war doesn't just cost your current forces. It costs you everything you've spent since your LAST war. It depletes you of all that hardware you've bought for years and years.

So even if you win this particular war, you've still stripped yourself bare for all your other enemies, and now have to not train another $300M in troops, but buy $300M times "x" years worth of new robots...a much more expensive proposition.

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